Category Archives: Inspirational

It Started With a Bracelet Bearing His Name

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I was recently notified through a member of his family that Colonel Louis F. Makowski passed on September 8. I was deeply saddened to hear this, even though I had never met the man.

Who was Colonel Makowski? He was an air force navigator who served our country during the Vietnam War. His plane was shot down, and he was taken as a Prisoner of War on October 6, 1966, spending 2,342 days in captivity then released on March 4, 1973. As an adolescent, I bought a metal POW bracelet inscribed with his name. I wore it every day in support of him and prayed for his safe return. I was deeply opposed to the Vietnam War, watching the horrors unfold on the news along with the accounts of so many young men killed in action. I was afraid my brother would be called up in the draft. It seemed like a death sentence to these young boys, really, who were shipped off to fight such an atrocious war. It was a time of unrest, turmoil, and deep divide in our country. Considering present day, we really haven’t come very far as a country where peace and unity are concerned.

After I wrote about this on my blog and in a local newspaper, I did some investigation and was able to contact Colonel Makowski. He was now retired and enjoying life with his wife and family. We wrote and emailed back and forth a few times, and I was able to express my thanks as an American citizen for his bravery and his service. I was so thrilled to have made that connection with the unknown soldier whose inscription I wore on a bracelet on my wrist for so many years. I received emails from others across the country who also wore his bracelet and who were happy to hear of his whereabouts. I can’t help to think that in his captivity and isolation in the Vietnam prison camp, he really had no idea of the many people who were supporting and praying for his safe return. He was never alone.

I lost touch with Colonel Makowski after that, although every now and again he crossed my mind. Last week I was emotionally touched that two of his family members contacted me to first say he was battling Covid and then he had succumbed to the virus. It was maddening to think that after all he went through in his life and all that he had survived, that in the end, he would suffer with this horrible virus that would take him. He was 90 years old.

I pray for his family in their sorrow and for all the families who have lost loved ones in military service and Covid. There just doesn’t seem enough prayers in the world you could say to honor these heroes.

In closing I would like to leave you with words that Colonel Makowski expressed to me in our last contact. He said, among other things, that he still had high hope for the future and our country’s winning back our God-given American values. The lesson he has taught me through this experience with him is no matter what your circumstances and how hard and challenging life can get, be strong, be brave and be hopeful. You can survive the trials you go through and go on to live a happy life.

Obituary of Colonel Louis Frank Makowski:

https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/pensacola-fl/louis-makowski-10345080

OLD FRIENDS

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Old Friends

Sat on a park bench like bookends

A newspaper blowin’ through the grass

falls on the round toes

Of the high shoes

Of the old friends

There we sat on the third-floor balcony of her vacation home.

My old friend and I reconnecting after all these years.

Who knows why we lost touch?  It happens.

My habit of pushing others away takes a toll sometimes.

And the busyness of life and distance challenges the connection.

Old friends

Winter companions, the old men

Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sunset

The sounds of the city sifting through trees

Settle like dust

On the shoulders of the old friends

Happy to be in each other’s company

Reminiscing about days gone by

Crazy days of our haphazard youth

And the harsh realities of what happened between then and now.

Can you imagine us years from today?

Sharing a park bench quietly?

How terribly strange to be seventy

Not seventy quite yet

But wondering about time – our time

And how to keep moving forward

Through the adversities of life and living

Knowing that our shared experiences mattered.

Old friends

Memory brushes the same years

Silently sharing the same fear

What will become of us?

What will time cast upon us?

We wonder together what life has in store

And how the ending of our story will be written.

A time it was, and what a time it was, it was

A time of innocence

A time of confidences

Our youth was crazy and carefree

Living life as only you can when you’re young

Anything in the name of fun

Dangerously daring fate.

Long ago it must be

I have a photograph

But here we are

Well beyond all grown up

Questioning the choices we made

Glad for the experiences we had

And the friendship we shared

Laughing over photographs

When we were wild and crazy kids.

Preserve your memories

They’re all that’s left.

But now when the future is fuzzy

And we look at the years in the rear-view mirror

I’m happy that we shared

A common youth

That you know things about me and I you

Only we can know

I’m so thankful for you in my life

Then and now and forever

To Helen

My old friend; my bookend

Forever ’54

“Old Friends/Bookends”

Copyright Paul Simon

If only…

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In my junior year of high school, way back in the 70’s, a fight broke out between a group of white and a group of black students.  It happened outside of the school during a recess period.  I heard it got violent, the police were called, and I don’t remember many other details except that I was in class and the school was put on lockdown. I do remember we were all frightened because we were not exactly sure of what was happening or why. The students involved ran, and I don’t know if any were caught or detained. The principal would not let anyone out of the building. The buses would not run that day, and you were not allowed to walk home. The administration started calling parents to pick their child up as they were not going to be allowed to leave without a parent or guardian accompanying them. My mom didn’t drive, so she had to find a neighbor who did, and that neighbor came and picked me up with my mom.

Since I had just transferred from a strict Catholic high school, I was overwhelmed by all of this. I was quiet and reserved, and this was mind-boggling. We were all apprehensive after that never knowing the real story vs. the rumors or whether it would happen again. The situation was never addressed or clarified in any way. No announcement; no letter home. But eventually life went on and besides a few minor skirmishes, nothing major happened for the rest of the year.

That time period, in general, was one of great unrest in the country at large, and it was not unusual for schools to have random clashes between the races. It was not unusual to have kids smoking pot out in the courtyard during recess either. Civil unrest was at full tilt in the world with protesting galore. The Vietnam War was stealing our youth with senseless deaths. Peacemakers John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated.  Four students at Kent State University were killed and nine others injured during a protest against the Vietnam War by the National Guard who open fired into the crowd. It was one of the greatest tragedies in our history.  I remember a few years later stopping at Kent State University while driving across the country wanting to see the place where this had happened. It was eerily quiet and felt like sacred ground. This was the place where four young college kids lost their lives at the hands of the National Guard because they dared to march for what they believed in, which, ironically, was peace. There was now only a plaque commemorating that fatal day. Their bravery in standing up for what they believed was heroic. I was just rambling around trying to figure out what to do with my life during this hostile era. I really hoped for the end of the Vietnam War and wanted peace. I really wanted racial harmony and the end of brutality. But I did not proactively take a stand or try to do anything to help make it happened. If only I had tried…

The world is still a mess. Today we have people protesting the brutal murder by police of George Floyd and the many others victimized by police brutality. We also have a horrendous pandemic with US deaths by Covid-19 surpassing a total of 110,000 today. Protesters are literally risking their lives to make a stand against horrific racial brutality. There is no peace. Our nation is crying out for change. Change that is so desperately needed. And yet we have the so-called leader of our country hiding in a bunker below the White House ranting incoherently through social media.  A so-called leader who commissioned the national guard to push peaceful protesters back with tear gas and rubber bullets to make way for his photo opt in front of a church holding a Bible. Not his Bible, by the way. “A bible” he clarified when asked. Did he say a prayer? No. Did he offer words of encouragement to a hurting people. No. If only…

If only…systemic change was proactively initiated back in the 70’s or 60’s or 50’s or in 1619 when slavery in the United States began. If only…I had been more proactive at a younger age in recognizing the need for and advocating for change. If only… I, as an individual had chosen another path in life to work towards a better world. If only…

I pray that reform will be initiated now for the good because we just cannot go on with the way history has played out in this country up until now. I still look to the future with hope that we as a united people will do better to make this country and the world a better place. I know in my heart of hearts that it can happen. I wish I had done more with different and wiser life choices to help to bring it about. I wish I had paid more attention to the details. But I ask you through my failures to find out the facts of what is happening and why and how you can be a part of making it materialize. And I will try to find a way in this late stage of my life to make a difference as well. I know I can immediately start by voting.

Please remember this moment in time and how our leadership is failing us and vote. This is the one most important thing we can all do right now for the common good.

My prayer is that God will bless America and help us to do better as a nation united together in understanding, love, kindness, caring and harmony. No more “If onlys…”

 

MEMORIAL DAY

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Today is a day to honor our military who have lost their lives in defense of our country. It is not a happy day. It is not a day to celebrate. It is a day to pause in silent remembrance and to be thankful and to pray for those who lost their most precious gift of life fighting for our freedom. These courageous warriors charged into war zones afraid but determined to overpower evil forces to keep us safe and keep us free. There is no amount of commendation that would be enough for these selfless, brave heroes.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, in all types of uniforms, in all walks of life. Today I would respectfully like to add another category of heroes who are also determined to overpower another type of evil force. And they are the healthcare workers – doctors and nurses, assistants, EMTs and all involved in the combat. They have selflessly put on their uniforms and trudged into horrific enemy territory to save us. Deliberately exposing themselves to rescue us. Many have lost their lives caring for those who are battling a different kind of terrorist in a different kind of battle in a different kind of war – the war against Covid-19.

Today I salute all warriors from the Revolutionary War, Mexican-American War, U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and all the battles in between. And even though our present war is not one of brutal force and weapons, it is a war nonetheless. A war against a vicious invader ravaging and stealing precious lives, and I salute those heroes today as well.

Thank a veteran.
Thank the military.
Thank the healthcare workers.
Pray for the sick, for those who were disabled and for those who have died.

 

Connecting Through Color

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I’ve been coloring pages in a children’s coloring book for the past two hours.  Pictures of Cookie Monster skateboarding, a dolphin in mid-air performing at Sea World for Big Bird, Oscar and Cookie Monster, and Grover sporting an inner tube at the beach. I’m enjoying mixing and choosing the different crayons as I take in their familiar scent and chuckle to myself at the irony of it all.IMG_3438

Why am I doing this? Why would a sixty-something-year-old be coloring kid pictures? Because I miss my grandsons. Today I sit here by myself, lonely as hell, coloring because it makes me feel connected to them.  I haven’t seen them in awhile because this invisible enemy – Covid-19 – has invaded our earth, and life as we know it has changed drastically. We are practicing social distancing. But what I want to do most is just hug my grandsons and be with them – coloring or cookie baking – riding bikes or playing soccer. I wish we could just snuggle on the couch and watch a movie. Instead, this virus has stolen these moments from me and them and everyone else in the world. I don’t know where it came from; I don’t know where it’s going or when. I just want it to vanish because it is a thief and a destructor of all things good.

IMG_3437Later I’ll mail these pictures off to the boys so they can put them on their refrigerator like I put their drawings on mine.  I’ll enclose a card with a printed note that tells them how much I love them. I know it will make them smile, and they’ll know I am holding them close in my heart. Then I’ll call them, or they’ll call me, or FaceTime, and they will be silly and giggle and run around and act like crazy boys as I chuckle. I’ll fight back the tears until I hang up.

I’m hoping they’ll look at the pictures every now and again and smile in their remembering of their Mimi and look forward to all the fun we’ll have again when this horror fades away and life returns to some sense of normalcy – whatever that will look like. I’m thankful that the boys are too young to understand the magnitude of what’s going on in the world. I have faith that before too long we’ll be, once again, snuggling on the couch as we watch a funny movie and laugh. Then we’ll go to the table and color pages – Ethan telling me which crayon to use on what, as Carter furiously scribbles a kaleidoscope of psychedelic renderings.

These are the things I’ll never take for granted again.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

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What’s it all about?

This invisible beast

Taking health

And lives

And businesses

And jobs

And money

And stability

Like a thief, it roams the earth capturing its victims in its tangled web of fear and danger.

 

What’s it all about?

The sick and the dying

The strain of the essential workers

The hungry

The want

The need

The abused

The desperate

Holding onto their last threads.

 

What’s it all about?

The fear

The anxiety

The lightheadedness

The nervousness

The nausea

The tears that come in waves out of nowhere.

 

What’s it all about?

The separation

The loneliness

The solitude

The yearning for loved ones

This thing stealing away the loving companionship of family and friends.

 

What’s it all about:

The health care workers

The saviors

The helpers

The volunteers

The food banks

The emergency relief

The donations

Uniting our nation and the world like never before.

 

What’s it all about?

The not knowing

But the trusting

The faith that moves us forward

When we want to run back to the past

The unity that brings us together

The future that will come

The promise it will bring

 

What’s it all about?

Faith.

Trust.

Hope.

EASTER MORNING

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It’s early dawn in my corner of the world, and the sun is already brilliantly shining on a brand-new day. I look out of my window and see the trees just starting to bud with new greenery and the flowers blooming in beautiful pastels. All seems right in the world.

But the world as we know it is far from right.  This Easter, like no others I have ever known, is different. For many it is filled with anxiety and apprehension from the assault of an enemy we can’t see. For a chosen it is unending weariness for the work they do in the care of the sick. For some it’s filled with fear for stricken members of their family or friends. For others it is the fear of not being able to care for their families as they remain jobless and desperate. For the downtrodden, it’s shrouded in grief from the loss of loved ones.

I am personally filled with hope.  Hope that this enemy will eventually fall off the face of the earth like a demon conquered by faithful warriors of good. Hopeful that this new way of living is going to continue to bring out the best in people as they find new and inventive ways to live with and care for the people around them.  I feel that even in isolation, I am closer to the people in the world at large. I have faith that things will get better.

This will not last forever.  It can’t and it won’t. This day is more than Easter baskets and jellybeans and spring hyacinths perfuming the air.  This day is about The Resurrection of Jesus Christ bringing light and hope into a dark world.  It is the foundation of faith and renewal of hope. Although it’s an Easter like no other, it is the Easter that it’s always been.

So, on this day, count your blessings.  Be thankful. Be loving and be kind. Hope for the day we will all be together again, forever changed, but better for having gone through this.

Happy Easter.

GOOD FRIDAY

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When I was a young girl attending Catholic School, I can remember that during the Lenten season all the statues and the crucifix in the Church were covered with purple material. It seemed bleak and sparse with nothing on display. I’m not sure of the true meaning for this ritual.  Some say it focuses your attention on the prayers and the gospels or it reminds us of this special time of the Liturgical year when we fast and abstain and atone for our sins. I do remember the heightened sense of what was to come on Easter morning when everything was exposed once more, and the Church was decorated with beautiful flowers and white ribbons in celebration of the most Holy Day of the year. I also remember the anticipation of eating that first chocolate bunny after a chocolate-free Lent!

I also recall as a little kid, I, too, would get purple ribbons and wrap them around the crucifixes and statues in our house during Lent. (I was a little intense when it came to religion.)  I kept a vigil of silence in my house during the hours of 12 noon and 3 pm, which we believed was the time Jesus hung on the cross. I was pretty good at ignoring my brother during that time period, my dad was usually at work, and my mom was always busy doing some kind of chore so it was easy for me to drop out.  I was an introvert anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal.

As I grew up, I eventually stopped shrouding the statues and crucifixes. Most churches have stopped doing the same. When I had children, I didn’t practice the rituals of the purple cloths or silence, since it was impossible with my chatty girls in the house always having something to say.

But today I am alone, social distancing in a world that’s gone awry. The churches are closed, things seem dark and bleak and sparse, and it is silent in the house. At three I will turn on a televised Good Friday ceremony of a reenactment on how Jesus was tortured and crucified and died for our sins. I can’t help to think how dark and bleak and sparse it must have seemed to Jesus as He looked at a world that had gone against Him. How desperate and frightened His loved ones must have been to see Him suffering.

I heard a priest say recently that Jesus went through this because He loves us. And because Jesus truly loves us, we should know that true love has no fear. We should not be afraid of darkness or suffering or the unknown. This knowledge and belief bring me hope in the difficult time we are experiencing today.  Even though we are alone and lonely, and many are getting sick and sadly dying, we should keep strong because, like Christ, we will rise again. This Covid-19 won’t beat us, and we will be stronger and braver for having gone through this. There will be light and a beautiful celebration when we come out of this and are together again.

Know that you are loved. Keep the faith. Keep strong. Be not afraid.

HOLY MAUNDY THURSDAY

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Do you remember the last time you gathered with your family and friends to have dinner?  Mine was on March 1. It was my daughter Megan’s birthday. I made lasagna and meatballs and baked a Funfetti cake, which is her favorite. We had a lot of fun celebrating, laughing and enjoying the food along with each other’s company.  I got to hug and play games and color with my grandsons. It was loud and crazy and amazing. We didn’t know that that would be the last time we would all be together for quite some time.

Today is Holy (Maundy) Thursday. The word “maundy” means washing the feet of the poor. The Catholic Church commemorates this day as the last time Jesus and His disciples gathered for dinner, or the Last Supper. On that night He washed the feet of these twelve men, which was an act of humble love. It was the night that gave birth to Holy Communion as Jesus blessed and broke the bread and wine and gave it to His apostles saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” I imagine they must have questioned at the time what that meant. It was the night we received the new commandment to “Love one another.”  It was the last time they would all be together. They didn’t know, but Jesus did.

This group of friends were just enjoying an evening of being together on that Holy Thursday evening. They did not have any clue as to what was going to happen in the days ahead. My family was just enjoying an evening of being together on March 1. We didn’t know what was going to happen in the days ahead. The disciples weren’t prepared. We weren’t prepared. As Catholic history progresses with the arrest of Jesus, these disciples, his friends, became scared. As more and more people in our country got sick and started dying with COVID-19, we became scared.

So here we are in real time reflecting on the events of Holy Maundy Thursday like we do each year during this Easter season.  Only this year, it is different.  This year I am sure we can actually feel the love and comradery the disciples felt that evening in the company of Jesus, and then the terror of what happened later that night in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed, was betrayed and then arrested. The disciples were afraid, isolating themselves in hiding.  One minute we, too, were enjoying dinner in the company of our loved ones, and in an instant, we became afraid of the invisible virus that was so ferociously sickening and killing so many. We now isolate ourselves.

History has proven that life as we know it can change in an instant. But we also know that faith always wins out over fear, as proven by those brave men and how they moved forward growing our faith throughout the world.

Be brave in the days ahead. Be faithful. We don’t know what will happen, but Jesus does.

And until you can hug your families and friends again, hold them close in your heart.

PALM SUNDAY

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I listen to the birds singing on this beautiful, sunny spring day. As I breathe deeply, my lungs fill with the freshness of the fragrant, crisp air. All seems well in this little corner of my world.  But it’s not. On this Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days of the year, we are cloistered in our homes. People are fighting for their lives and struggling to take a breath – something we take for granted.

On this holy day in the past I have gone to church and somewhat dreaded standing through the long Sunday gospel.  It usually took only about 15 or so minutes as the priest and deacons took turns reading the different passages, but it seemed like an eternity. As a child, it was tiring and boring to stand for that length of time. It felt torturous. As I got older it seemed like a chore you had to endure once a year. Through the years I have come to terms with this day and the reading of these familiar words. Today, especially, I wish I could be in my church and hearing this important recounting of my faith. But I can’t – no one can.

This year life as we know it has changed. Covid-19 has taken us down to our knees as people get sick and die while overwhelmed healthcare workers struggle to care for the gravely ill. We are all scared and puzzled by what has happened to our world. And this week will be overwhelmingly even more frightful in our corner of the country as we reach the so-called apex of this invisible killer.  This year we are not bored. We are anxious. Our Military is stepping in to assist and maintain some semblance of order in our country. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed. Churches are closed. People are unemployed and broke and hungry and searching for faith in the midst of this pandemic.

This week, when we need it the most, Holy Week will not be celebrated in the way we are used to. On this day, Palm Sunday, I wish I could go to church.  I wish I could stand during the long, extended gospel reading and would do it without complaint and without tiring. The tradition of my faith has become so much more important in the grand scheme of things. This day I question how idiotic it was for me to ever tire of listening to the words of this most important gospel. It seems like such an inane thing to dwell on in such a horrific time. But it is especially in times of trouble that your faith becomes even more precious. It’s the thing you hold close to your heart in times of struggle.

So, I will read this passage at home alone as I practice social distancing and offer it up for our world as we now know it. I’m asking for God’s strength and care for all of us in the uncertain days ahead.

Hold on tight to your faith, practice gratitude, be still and breathe.